On January 14th 2018 I woke up at four in the morning to drive from Southern Massachusetts to upstate New York during a snowstorm to see a man about a bus. This is the story of Gerdy the Adventure Bus, and all I’ve learned in the process.
This story actually started four years ago when I was a freshman in high school. Two of my mom’s friends—who would later turn out to be my good friends and a source of incredible inspiration to me—stayed in our driveway in their 1997 Ford Sportsmobile. At the time I had no idea what “#vanlife” was or that it was really even an option for me. All I knew is that hearing about all the adventures they had and all the places they went in their van seemed like the coolest thing I have ever heard of.
Ever since that day I've been obsessed, constantly researching different kinds of vehicles, builds, places to go, anything and everything involving this lifestyle. It's been my dream to buy a van or bus and travel around North America. Living out of a space I built, waking up everyday in a new place would be the epitome of success.
Fast forward from 2014 to the spring of my Senior year of high school. All my friends were getting ready to go off to college or some form of further education. That wasn’t my path. I was getting ready to go on a three-month expedition with the National Outdoor Leadership School. That was my plan. After those three months out west? No idea.
But I wasn’t worried. I was following my passion by exploring the Rocky Mountains. And during my NOLS course, I had an epiphany that morphed into a plan. The realization was:
1.) I need to work in outdoor education
2.) The best way to get into that world and save money is to live minimally and nomadically
3.) I was going to buy a bus
So two months after I got back I finally found a bus that looked promising for sale in upstate New York. I emailed back and forth with the seller and drove out to see it that weekend. My dad, girlfriend, and I woke up and headed out into a snow storm facing a whole lot of unknowns.
We got to the dealership, and the bus was covered in snow and ice. In other words, it was love at first sight. I put the key in and it started right up, and took it for a test drive around the snowy back roads. A few hours later I was driving it back through the Berkshire Mountains with the radio turned up as loud as it would go with a smile that just couldn't go away.
It's been five months now since I got Gerdy, and so much has happened. I've cut the seats out, built a bed frame, kitchen, closet and a couch that turns in dining area. I've learned how to put down a floating floor, make cabinets, and how to install a solar system.
With the build coming to an end in the next month I can look back and see how much I've grown. Working on Gerdy taught me that everything is a process and to just take things systematically, one step at a time. I’ve also gotten better at letting go of the little things, and slowing down to think.
Most importantly this project has shown me that I’m capable of so much more than I thought. And I really think anyone can do something like this or really anything they have a passion for it and put their mind to it. I'm not a carpenter, I’m not a plumber, mechanic, or electrician. I'm just a twenty-year-old guy with a dream and some tools. But I was still able to make something beautiful and that I'm proud of!
If it’s vanlife or hiking the PCT if you have a dream, go for it, go against the grain and do what makes you happy. You won’t regret it!
Ambassador Jacques Turcotte posts updates on the bus and his other adventures at @livewildoutdoors on Instagram. Also stay tuned for my cross-country road trip to California where some pretty rad adventures await me and Gerdy the Adventure Bus. If you have any questions about the build or getting into van life feel free to send me a direct message on Instagram.